Declassified files: Dossier closed as Anglo-Irish Agreement protests fizzled out

By 1990 protests against the Anglo-Irish Agreement had run their course
By 1990 protests against the Anglo-Irish Agreement had run their course

As unionist protests about the Anglo-Irish Agreement petered out, on May 25 1990 the file recording such protests was formally closed by officials.

The file, which has been declassified at the Public Record Office in Belfast under the 20 Year Rule, was closed with a note which said: “You will be glad to note that the Secretary of State has agreed that further monthly political protest action reports are no longer required.”

Earlier that month, the head of the civil service, Sir Ken Bloomfield, had told the secretary of state: “With the passage of time, the unionist protest has withered to the point where it is of little practical consequence.

“As a result, recent monthly reports have contained little of significance ... future production of the monthly report on political protest action does not represent a cost effective use of resources.”

The file contains details of how leading politicians – including Peter Robinson and Ken Maginnis – who had been very publicly protesting against the accord by withholding payments for TV licences (among other forms of civil disobedience) quietly began to settle their debts as the issues came to a head in the courts.

Another file refers to the Irish government seeing Mr Robinson, then the DUP deputy leader, as a key figure.

According to British official Robin Maesfield’s note of their conversation, a senior Irish official told him that “in terms of unionist politicians who might be interested to participate in serious discussions about political progress, Mr Collins made clear that he saw Peter Robinson as ‘a serious player’. The re-runs of the 1986 photograph associating him with Ulster Resistance had been largely discounted by the Irish Government.”